Division Inside and Outside the Church

This week’s Gospel will likely have much less understanding or “willingness to accept” as the past few weeks. I believe that it was easier to understand and accept the teachings of these recent readings. Most of us acknowledge that we often care too much about “our things.” Hopefully, the related sermons concerning the coveting and “worshiping” of material things instead of our relationships with God and family will help us to stop dividing our relationship with God with these other insignificant possessions.

I think that most Catholics understood the importance and significance of these teachings. This week, we learn that Jesus’ intentions were to create division – something that may be difficult to comprehend.

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that He has not “come to establish peace on earth,” but “I have come for division.” (Luke 12:51)

Obviously, Jesus meant that teaching the Good News, living a lifestyle to serve others, walking the path of righteousness, and, ultimately, living and dying by following God’s will would come as messages that would cause many to follow, but others to disavow or ignore.

While our world is rife with division, unfortunately I do not think all of it is currently the work of our Lord – after all, He did provide us humans with free will. My perspective, and I am almost as far from a theologian as there is, is that divisions arising from individuals and institutions promoting and/or defending Catholic teachings are rooted in Jesus’ words that we hear this week. This makes it somewhat easier to differentiate the divisive works of the Lord and those of the devil.

For instance, infidelity and selfishness that leads to divorce (and, therefore division) would not be included in Jesus’ example of “positive” division. Sometimes, though, it is hard to determine the source of divisions.

Divisions emanating within the Catholic Church are very confusing.

As an example, there are many Catholics that love and prefer the sacredness of the Extraordinary Form (EF) Mass. This includes priests as well as the laity.

I personally know and am aware of three Catholic Dioceses – all located in the Midwest and each adjoining the current Diocese where I reside – that apparently have bishops with differing views of the EF celebrations under their leadership. I was unable to receive “on-the-record” formal responses as of this writing. (Therefore, until I have official explanations, I will not identify or name the diocese or the bishops).

One of these bishops encourages offering the EF Mass. Some parishes and priests are expanding to offer additional EF services.

In two adjoining dioceses, one even in the same state, the situation is very different. In one, the respective bishop has ordered priests not to offer the EF. In the other diocese, a parish that has offered the EF on a daily basis for years has been ordered to end the practice.

Everyday Divisions

On the other hand, when Catholics’ defend and promote the teachings of the faith, which in turn, cause division – even within their own family, I believe this is what Jesus was promoting.

I know many families that go through what appears to be a now-traditional struggle as parents to keep their older teenagers and young adult children engaged with their faith. I have seen this division up-close-and-personal with results that have eventually been successful with others still a work in progress.

Ultimately, the goal of division is heighten differences and then to create unite.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit.” (820-821) Certain things are required in order to respond adequately to this call: renewal, conversion of heart, prayer in common, fraternal knowledge of each other, ecumenical formation, dialogue, collaboration.

The Catechism clearly explains that divisions among Christians within the Catholic Church is/was the impetus for the creation of many other faiths outside of Catholicism, but that “The Church’s mission stimulates efforts towards Christian unity” and that “divisions among Christians prevent the Church from realizing in practice the fullness of catholicity…”

Therefore, as Catholics, we must continue to evangelize. At the same time, we must also realize that this may cause division. However, it is also our mission as apostles of Christ.

© 2013 Greg Yoko.  All rights reserved.